Firefighter Training, Firefighting, Fireground Safety

National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Car Fires and Air Bags

Responding to a car fire can be considered routine within the fire and emergency service because it’s something that we face everyday. However, as evidenced in this week’s featured firefighter near-miss report, car fires can pose a serious hazard during and after extinguishment. It is imperative that all personnel play ‘heads-up ball’ while extinguishing cars fires. Full personnel protective equipment (PPE) is a must. Furthermore, after reading this report, it is apparent that diligence must be maintained until the air-bags can be rendered safe.

“Out of nowhere, the passenger-side airbag, located on top of the dash, deployed violently. Due to the heat damage to the dash area and the remaining heat in the vehicle, the bag was partially melted and debris from the bag covered the facepiece and helmet of the nozzle person and splattered on the torso portion of the firefighter looking for the hood release. Neither firefighter had their head in the vehicle at the time, but they were standing within three feet of the door frame near the ‘A’ post of the vehicle. No injuries occurred as a result of this incident, but there was serious potential for injury due to the close proximity of the firefighters to the airbag. Command was established by the officer of the engine, and non-essential personnel were staged away from the vehicle.”

Consider the following:

  1. Does your department’s SOP address disconnecting the battery at car fires?
  2. Does your department have a policy about PPE at vehicle fires?
  3. Have the events described above happened to you or within your department?
  4. Should the location of the vehicle’s air bags have an effect on your fire attack?
  5. How are your recruits trained on these types of “routine” calls? 

If you have experienced a near-miss incident similar to this, submit your report today on For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.